With the recent decision by the San Francisco Punchline to turn over their headliner slots to women during Womens History Month, Kristen Becker took on the question of ‘How diverse are the lineups at America’s biggest comedy clubs?’ and whether it matters. She collected some data from a selection of clubs that she felt represented the country. Editors Note: despite the fancy looking charts below, this is not a scientific absolutely study, but rather one comedian’s look at lineups, and what she concluded from what she saw.
There has been a lot of talk about the gender divide in comedy for years. While I have been in and around comedy for quite some time, I never crunched the numbers. Earlier this month I spent a weekend going through the websites of four major club chains, and collected data. I picked from two larger chains and two smaller chains Funny Bone, Improv, Zanies and Helium. They represent forty or so markets. I took an average of all the clubs talent, and here it is for you, in chart formation. I picked these clubs as they have the most clubs, in the most markets, and they made their future lineups available enough to get a decent sample. Full disclosure, I did work for Helium as a GM, it is a fast rising “A” club chain. More full disclosure. This is not a scientific study. A scientific study would compensating for certain differences in variables, and would have taken a much larger sample. But I still thought what I saw, even in an unscientific way, was worthy of sharing
I also did a quick glance at some one off clubs, the results are the same. You can take a minute and google your local comedy club calendar and see the same thing for yourselves.
The numbers are from the lists of performers posted on websites from approximately mid March until the beginning of June (at least as of the date I went through the lineups, in mid March). Some clubs only had the next month available, some had three months, so I stopped at beginning of June.
Listen, we all know comedy club owners are in it to make money. Not everyone has to be into social justice, and I’m not sure what the answer is, but the gender disparity is staggering. Take a look for yourself.
The breakdown? Of the four clubs, the Funny Bone is the closest to having a diverse lineup, across the board, Improv is a boys club, though they employ men of color almost as much as they employ white guys. Smaller franchise Zanies also works to keep some diversity in the lineup, while Helium has NO women of color listed, and none on the horizon that aren’t Margaret Cho. Of course this is only a snapshot, representing an average of the 4-6 weeks of bookings that I reviewed. I have no reason to believe that any other 4-6 week period would be much different. Small one-off clubs are also no different, and there was no reason to single out these specific clubs other than they offered a shorthand way to look at the industry. Whether it is Jr’s in Erie or Laughing Skull in Atlanta. This is just the way it is. It’s an industry wide issue.
Before you hardcore men’s rights activists lose your shit, let me be clear that I don’t work the club circuit. I occasionally work as a feature in clubs for one nighters if I know the headliner, but I’m not trying to be a “club comic”. Currently, I have no horse in the race. On the flip side, I also can share truthful data and not worry about losing work. I want to see the comedy industry progress and just like other industries, sometimes that takes a long hard look at numbers.
With all the praise about comedians and the need for truth telling in our society, shouldn’t we be working to expand the diversity of voices? Will you guys stop telling us it is all in our heads? This is the comedy landscape in the major club franchises in the US.
The charts below are a graphical representation of the numbers Kristen Becker looked at. The numbers are compiled from the lists of performers posted on websites from approximately mid March until the beginning of June (at least as of the date I went through the lineups, in mid March). Some clubs only had the next month available, and are based on just the one month.